You can stop pollution in the Bay from microbeads—very small plastic particles found in some cosmetics and personal care products. They spread through aquatic ecosystems and hurt fish.
When rinsed down the drain, microbeads are too small to be removed by sewage treatment. Instead, they are released into the Bay, where they can absorb toxins that concentrate in fish and marine creatures that eat fish. Microbeads accumulate and can move up the food chain, resulting in eventual impact on larger wildlife and people.
In 2015, Baykeeper worked with our partner groups to help win state legislation banning microbeads in consumer products. Many manufacturers have begun phasing microbeads out of their formulas, but the ban doesn't come into full effect until 2020.
In the meantime, you can help stop microbead pollution in the Bay by checking the labels of your personal care products, particularly exfoliants and cleansers. Avoid products containing Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA), and nylon.
Microbeads are just one type of microplastic pollution; other small plastic particles come from trash fragments, synthetic clothing fibers, and manufacturing residue. Baykeeper is working in partnership with the San Francisco Estuary Institute (SFEI) to measure microplastic pollution in the Bay and to discover more about the sources of this pollution. SFEI and Baykeeper conducted a landmark study of microplastics in the Bay in 2015. Now we're using new sampling methods to get even more detailed results.
Top photo by 5Gyres, courtesy of Oregon State University licenced under Creative Commons; Photo at right of microplastics survey aboard the Baykeeper boat.